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Bishnu Maya, Nepali farmer, has food all year round and can send children to school thanks to participatory evaluation of improved maize
Poor Credit
Image by CIMMYT
Farmer Bishnu Maya in her maize plot, which forms the lion’s share of her 0.6 hectares of steep, terraced land in Belhara village, Dhankuta district, in the mid-hills of Nepal. She is a widowed mother of three and a "dalit," meaning she is a member of one of the poorest castes, considered "untouchable" in Nepal’s traditional hierarchical system. She works hard, tending millet, tomatoes, cucumbers, and various livestock on her tiny farm in addition to maize. However, traditional maize varieties have one small ear per plant and are very tall, making them low-yielding and prone to lodging (i.e., falling over), and Maya was never able to grow enough for the whole year. She struggled to feed her family and to send her children to school.

Maya’s life began to change when she was invited to take part in participatory evaluations of improved maize varieties developed for the mid-hills region. She decided to plant a variety called Manakamana-3, which with its two large ears per plant gave her higher yields, as well as resisting lodging with its shorter, sturdier stalk and staying green as it matured, making a better feed for her livestock. The project also advised Maya to plant intercropped vegetables in addition to maize, bringing her additional food and income. “Now I have enough food and can sell some surplus to pay for my children’s education," she says.

The project was part of the Hill Maize Research Program (HMRP), a long-term collaboration between CIMMYT, the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC), and other partners. The project focused on women farmers and disadvantaged groups like dalits, testing and promoting technologies that can be implemented by the farmers themselves. Participating farmers have observed 20-50% higher grain yields with the new varieties. "We know this program is for us. We would not have participated in the trials if it wasn’t," says Maya. She now demonstrates the new variety to other farmers.

According to a report released in 2010, more than two decades of joint efforts between researchers from Nepal and CIMMYT have helped boost the country’s maize yields 36% and those of wheat by 85%. As a result, farmers even in the country’s remote, mid-hill mountain areas have more food and brighter futures.

Photo credit: D. Mowbray/CIMMYT.

For more on the HMRP and CIMMYT’s relationship with Nepal, see the following:
2010 e-news, "Nepal-CIMMYT partnerships reach the unreached": www.cimmyt.org/en/about-us/media-resources/newsletter/869….
2006 e-news, "People of the Clouds": www.cimmyt.org/en/about-us/media-resources/newsletter/254….
Nepal-related stories on CIMMYT’s blog: blog.cimmyt.org/?s=nepal.

Bishnu Maya appears as one of three women discussing their lives as maize farmers on the CIMMYT video "Maize for Life", available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ls53idLkUg.

The World Can’t Wait photographic exhibition
Poor Credit
Image by net_efekt
The World Can’t Wait photographic exhibition, currently showing at the National Theatre.

Oxfam has joined forces with top news photographers from around the world to create a powerful exhibition reminding world leaders to fulfil their promises and Make Poverty History.

You can join the G8 Wait to show you’re waiting for Tony Blair and other world leaders to deliver on the promises they made in 2005. There’s a flickr group where you can add your voice to the campaign: g8wait or visit Oxfam’s site, where you can send your message to Tony and Angela.

My humble contributions include the expo poster and leaflet.

Photo credit: John Easterby/Standard Eight

The World Can’t Wait photographic exhibition
Poor Credit
Image by net_efekt
The World Can’t Wait photographic exhibition, currently showing at the National Theatre.

Oxfam has joined forces with top news photographers from around the world to create a powerful exhibition reminding world leaders to fulfil their promises and Make Poverty History.

You can join the G8 Wait to show you’re waiting for Tony Blair and other world leaders to deliver on the promises they made in 2005. There’s a flickr group where you can add your voice to the campaign: g8wait or visit Oxfam’s site, where you can send your message to Tony and Angela.

My humble contributions include the expo poster and leaflet.

Photo credit: John Easterby/Standard Eight

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